NPR Listeners Comfort A Dying Man Who Tried To Stop The Challenger Disaster

David and I listened to this follow up story Thursday on the retired Thiokol engineer who tried to stop the Challenger disaster, and had a parking lot moment of our own. We were meeting Dad and Linda (my father-in-law Sheldon and Shel’s girlfriend Linda) for dinner. As the story ended, we listened, pausing before getting out of the car. NPR listeners evidently had their own driveway or parking lot moments, and responded quickly to the original story. It’s nice to report so many acts of kindness to try to comfort a dying man. Challenger disaster

After NPR reported Bob Ebeling’s story on the anniversary of the Challenger explosion, hundreds of people responded. Ebeling, now 89, says those letters “helped bring my worrisome mind to ease.”

Source: Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years Of Guilt

Workaround for Last.fm: Universal Scrobbler

I listen to a LOT of music via Internet radio streams, and until August, I used to be able to put a nice list of “Listening” tracks on my various blogs. That was courtesy of Last.fm, which used to be the main place people could gather or “scrobble” their personal music libraries as they listened to iTunes or CDs on their computers or listened to radio stations online that provided the right kind of track medadata.

UPDATE: WOW – check out the list at “Scrobble Along” and see how that site makes it possible to scrobble some pretty interesting Internet radio stations.

Well, Last.fm “don’t play dat” anymore. They still provide “scrobbling” music playlist service if you listen to your personal music library and/or CDs via iTunes or Windows Media (or Clementine, and maybe WinAmp if that’s still working), and they might provide cover art TO various apps for listening to music online. However, they no longer pick up the data FROM those apps (with a few obscure exceptions, apparently Tunemark and Rdio might do it, but not TuneIn).

RadioRiel

Last.fm just does not want to “scrobble” or pickup metadata from Internet radio streams anymore, so how to capture all that interesting music for possible later purchase? There’s a workaround: it’s possible to manually or semi-manually scrobble tracks via something called the Universal Scrobbler. It’s not perfect, but it’s quick, it’s clean, and a WordPress plugin called “Last.fm Played for WordPress” reads the scrobbled tracks instantly, where the former plugin did not. In some cases, it uses Last.fm’s own music database to discover and capture the track information. So there. I spend too much time listening to my obscure streams to let that data just disappear.

Basically, while listening to music off the Internet (or even if I happen to hear something on the radio and get the track and artist name from Shazam), I can enter the artist or release name in the search page for Universal Scrobbler, and it can check one of 3 databases and send the information to Last.fm for me, where it appears on my list of tracks, which then gets picked up by my plugin. It’s not perfect and it won’t capture anything automatically, but it’s better than nothing.

Fake Reality: Cryptid, The Swamp Beast

It’s shot like a reality show, but it’s scripted. Supposedly based on real interviews and reenacted, it’s about a Louisiana mystery beast called the “rougarou” that various law enforcement and other investigators are tryiing to track down becausue it’s been killing animals. Then a body is found, and 2 guys are missing. There’s multiple cameras, a soundtrack, complicated technology (thermal cameras, helicopters), and it moves along briskly.

At least there’s not a lot of the endless repetition of what’s gone before, at the begining of each segment after one of the (many) commercial breaks. I’ve been watching a lot of crappy “reality” shows lately, mostly the ones with “secrets” or “mystery” in the title, because they’re very hootworthy. However, this fake reality show is at least entertaining.

egends of strange, unidentified creatures that stretch back for centuries. In the Northwest, many credible people swear to have sighted Bigfoot. Near Lake Champlain, locals have sworn up and down to seeing a strange, prehistoric-like creature in the water. And down south in the swamplands, it’s no different–some of the most deep-rooted and fearsome monster stories have endured. In the new original series Cryptid: The Swamp Beast, one of America’s oldest mysteries and bone-chilling legends comes to life through dramatizations, eyewitness accounts, real news reports a

via About Cryptid: The Swamp Beast – HISTORY.com.

Random Movie Night: Death at a Funeral (2007 British Film)

Here’s a movie I’ve never heard of, with Alan Tudyk, just starting the opening credits. Recording now, let’s see if it’s any good!

Welcome to Random Movie Night, brought to you by TiVo and sheer dumb luck!

Cast of Death at a Funeral (2007 British film)

Death at a Funeral is a 2007 British comedy film directed by Frank Oz. The screenplay by Dean Craig focuses on a family attempting to resolve a variety of problems while attending the funeral of the patriarch.ContentsPlotCastProductionReleaseCritical receptionBox officeAwardsHome mediaRemakesReferencesExternal links

via Death at a Funeral 2007 film – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

9:11 pm – caught it just as the credits began and decided to watch when Alan Tudyk’s name came up. I’m in, because Wash lives. The credits have this little cartoon coffin making its way along a tortuous route, on a map, around the roundabouts, and eventuallly making it’s way up to a largish country house in a nice suburb somewhere near Gatwick. Directed by Frank Oz. Should be good for a laugh!
9:14 Yes, that’s a passing bell ringing, because this is England.
9:15 Oops, wrong body. Sorry, sir! Comedy cartoon coffin quicklyy returns to the mortuary to fetch the right cofffin.
9:16 The one son, Daniel and his wife, are very posh. They live in the nice house with Daniel’s mom, and his dad while he was alive. Apparently they’re trying to come up with enough money to get a flat in London to further Daniel’s career, but currently he’s not doing much other than messing about writing a novel. Meanwhile, his successfful younger brother steals all the writing limelight, living in New York. His flight’s delayed but he’s just landed and on his way.
9:17 Alan Tudyk! Tension in the family. His girlfriend is a relative of the deceased and nervous about introducing him to the family at the funeral, but this way they’re all there. Tudyk isn’t so sure about barging in during a time of mourning. She is probably fun at parties as she slags off a tosser in traffic. Tudyk is very, very nervous about meeting the brothers and wants to make a good impression.

9:20 Return of the Coffin. So is this your father, sir? All’s well.
9:21 Ah, the widow. She and Daniel’s wife get on like a house afire with no firemen handy.
9:22 Hey, it’s Hump from “Trouble in Paradise!” Still in underpants, being picked up by Tudyk. He appears to be an amateur pharmacist, supposedly studying at university. Sure, Hump. Put your pants on.
9:23 Taking random pills from Hump’s table probably won’t work out well, Alan Tudyk.
9:24 Posh younger brother Robert turns up with black leather bags. Makes clanger joke. Mum cries.
9:25 The two guys in a Golf, cousins? Pick up foul mouthed uncle Alfie, who’s in a wheelchair. “Where the fuck have you been? We’re going to be late!”

9:27 The brothers talk next to the cofffin in the posh parlor. What to do about Mum? And money.
9:28 The drugs are taking effect. Cousins bringing Uncle Alfie thwarted for convenient parking space to offload Uncle Afie and his wheelchair, and must back all the way down the drive.
9:30 Tudyk’s character is called Simon and is talking to invisible dogs and garden furniture. He is tripping on the green, and at one point sticks his head in a hedge out in the garden, where he’s not as likely to disturb the rest of the family gathering in the parlor. He remarks “It’s all so…. GREEN.”
9:31 Who the hell is that guy? It’s Theron from Game of Thrones, you numskull. Peter Dinklage!
9:32 It looks like everybody’s arrived at the… wake? It’s not a shiva, there’s a priest. Private funeral, I guess.

I think this sets up the characters. The posh brothers need money, the cousins are less posh and are stuck trundling Uncle Alfie, Peter Dinklage’s relationship with the deceased will become clearer.. And the “Valium” Alan Tudyk took was something a biiiit stronger, like LSD, mescaline and Ketamine. Alan Tudyk is going to make a great impression on the family. And now that Uncle Alfie’s finally arrived, they can begin the service in the parlor. The service begins.

Alan Tudyk’s facce on drugs is priceless. Family ructions are priceless. And oh, this Bible reading about David and Jonathan is going to be significant as it was the patriarch’s favorite passage (sidelong look at Peter Dinklage, who looks pretty hot).

Aaaand Tudyk hits peak freakout. Blame it on the “Valium.” He thinks the coffin is moving and making scratching noises, and throws it over, with dead Daddy rolling out to his widow’s feet. Chaos!

While they stash Tudyk in an upstairs bathroom and tidy Daddy back into the casket (it’s actually the kind with the double-hinged lid), Dinklage asks to talk with Daniel, somewhere quiet. They go into the study, a beautifully decorated little room with its own en-suite bathroom.

So now we’re going to get the big reveal of the relationship between the dad and Peter Dinklage. And he’s got pictures… he pulls them out to show Daniel. As he explains where and when they were taken, surrounded as they are by tasteful male nudes in sculpture and painting and photography, plus some “gay icon” movie memorabilia, Daniel has a pifanee. His dad was gay?!?!? Suddenly, his dad’s taste in objets d’art and Bible readings becomes horrribly clear.

I has a pifaneee!!1!

It’s blackmail, and there’s extremely graphic proof that it wasn’t Platonic. And Daniel now has to have a whip round to find some cash to pay Dinklage off, to the tune of about 15,000GBP, or Dinklage will show the pictures to everybody at the house. Meanwhile, the buffet table looks really good.

Oops, the unposh cousin and the widow are at the garden house, where the not-Valium pill bottle got dropped earlier during Tudyk’s epic freak-out.

Dinklage: he’s a master of sticking the brothers where they live.

Tudyk: has escaped the bonds of clothes and the bathroom he locked himself into, and has climbed out the second-floor window mother-naked to greet the Sun. What a glorious movie! Why was he not cast in the American remake! I need another beer to celebrate this, his skin is absolutely flawless.

Dinklage: Is too much. I sum up: he’s just been stuffed full of not-Valium affter being wrestled to the floor of the study by Robert, with Daniel’s help, and the helpful hypochondriac cousin just offered the Valium bottle. Hump comes in and now this set piece is ready to roll once the drugs take effect. I don’t think Dinklage will make it to the end credits. AWK-ward!

Previously, Uncle Alfie had to take a shit and can’t go upstairs and besides which the door is still locked, so the schlumpfy cousin brings him through the study. Dinklage has been stashed behind the couch. There is actual pooping on screen – the hypochondriac cousin comes up with a handful and has his own epic freakout, before catching sight of the spatters on his face in the mirror and having another. Meanwhile, the brothers are in a little room off the kitchen, arguing. Hump has disappeared. Dinklage pops up from behind the couch, clearly hallucinating but not too bothered about his hands and feet being bound. He begins hopping around the room, climbing on furniture. Will he surrvive? it’s called “Death AT a Funeral,” after all. Still, he looks like he’s enjoying the not-Valium trip.

Crash! he’s lying on the floor, having cracked his head on the coffee table.

And no, it appears he didn’t survive, but at least it was a silly accident, and he died happily hallucinating, jumping on the couch while tied up with… ties. The hypochondriac cousin goes to fetch the brothers and Hump, with a horrible rictus on his face and a shitstain on his shirt. The family conspirators gather in the study, panicking and trying to figure out what to do. They’ve got a dead little man in the one room and a dead old man in the other, who’s got quite a big, roomy casket actaully.

But at this point, I want to know what Alan Tudyk is doing on the roof.

Oh good, everybody’s on the lawn, as the service is still on hold since the unfortunate epic freak-out when he thought the coffin was moving and dumped Daddy out on the floor. The opportunity for the ingenious solution presents itself, but first the brothers have to argue about money and writing novels.

God, they must have used vats of sunscreen on Tudyk! he must have been up on the roof for hours doiing the crazy. His girlfriend, who is never clearly identiified I think, finally climbs up on the roof, tells him she’s pregnant, and wants to get marrried. So he calms down and agrees to put some pants on and join the famiy in the parlor for the much-delayed funeral service. I could be wrong, she may be a niece, as her father seems to be very much alive, and forbidding her to see Alan Tudyk any more. By this time, we’ve seen a HELL of a lot of Tudyk ourselves. He looks pretty good but we never get any frontal nudity.

And I really hope Dinklage is dead, because otherwise he’s going to be buried alive, in a notoriously bad position on top of his former lover. But in the meantime, this needs to be a closed-coffin service if they ever manage to re-start. And Uncle Alfie’s been on the pot in the bathroom off the study the whole time, where he’d seen the brothers, druggie Hump, and the hypochondriac cousin wrestling with the dead body of Dinklage through the open door. What a lovely time had by all, except of course poor old Peter Dinklage.

The vicar asks “do you want to have the casket open? We’ll really have to whiz through this” because he has a wedding or something in a few minutes. So Daniel begins the eulogy. And the cofffin begins knocking and rocking and moaning.

Jack-in-the-box! Pop goes the Dinklage! HELLLLLLLOOOOO! His eyes are on FIRE.

He manages to get out of the coffin and tries to escape, but the photos falll out of his jacket pocket at the widow’s feet, and she goes half-ballistic. Chaos ensues.

But then, Daniel shouts the opening line of his boring eulogy again.. a frustrated novelist, forever in the shadow of his younger, cooler brother, who’s already a successful writer, he was previously irritated that everybody expected his brother to give the eulogy.

And somehow, it’s heartfelt, and moving, and loving, and acknowledges that their dad, uncle, and brother had some secrets and found some happiness late in life, but he was still a good man.

It’s enough to shut everyone the hell up, even Dinklage, who looks somewhat mollified though he’s still tied up with curtain tie-backs. The widow, who was on the point of throttling him, smiles sadly and pulls herself back together. She’s very elegant, but it’s been a long and difficult day.

Finally, after everyone is gone, the brothers sum up in the empty parlor and work some things out. Daniel’s wife comes in to tell them everyone’s gone at last, except poor old Uncle Alfie, who was still going on about the dead body in the study. She thougt it best to put him to bed rather than put him through the stress of being driven back to his care facility.

“Oh, and I gave him some of that Valium that was in the study, to keep him calm.”

Horrified looks from the brothers, the music comes up, Alfie is somehow on the roof naked, and remarks “it’s all so.. fucking GREEN.”

Credits: the little animated coffin comes to the end of its journey, goes into the ground, and some fucking green grows on top.

FIN

So that was a fun movie – not a classic, not a cult favorite, but funny even though you could see what’s coming, and nearly all of Alan Tudyk besides.

Gators Gonna Gate, Or Why Peter Pan Live Wasn’t That Bad, Really

So last night, the folks on Jezebel were all set to hate-tweet NBC’s second annual live musical theater production. This time around, it was #PeterPanLive, starring Allison Williams, aka Brian Williams’ daughter and some kind of star on HBO or something we don’t watch. Once again, I set up to watch live, or as close to live as possible given that we had to put dinner together, but I caught up via TiVo. And I tweeted, and tweeted, and hung out at Jezebel in the “live blog,” trying to get out of the “greys” (the pending comments).

Today, Jezebel followed up with the five most mockable moments, including this oddity, which was stuck in the middle of a commercial break:

First of all, I’ve only highlighted five moments because Peter Pan Live!, first and foremost, was terribly boring. Not only is it a dull play to begin with, but this one was starring Allison fucking Williams. And, worse yet, not a single fly wire broke during the show. Point being, I really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find five moments that seemed mildly worth the precious time that you and I typically dedicate to Clickhole quizzes. But find them, I did.

via The 5 Most Mockable Moments of Peter Pan Live! .

So I mostly don’t agree that #PeterPanLive was a mockable hot mess for what it was, a musical on live television. Unlike last year’s mess with Whatsername Countrysinger, it wasn’t awful with a few good moments. It was actually pretty good with some awkward bits, uninspired casting. and a less-racist version of the song “Ugga-Wugga-Wug.”

Christopher Walken was weirdly and badly made up, not like his promotional photos had looked, and was moving and speaking slowly (and obviously reading off cue cards and only occasionally camping things up). Also, he had a throne built like a La-Z-Boy recliner that seemed to be ALL THE FAVORITE THINGS for him; he was constantly working the big gold lever to lift the leg rest. Given how little energy he had for dancing, singing, or swordfighting, it may have been written into his contract that he needed a lot of throne time with his legs up. Something was horribly wrong with his eyebrows, so that he looked like Ming the Merciless on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Still, Allison Williams sang really well, looked disturbingly fey in the part (she has a strong jaw), had sort of British diction, and danced and flew around like a boss.

Wendy looked very mature, as did all the “Lost Boys” but hey, that’s theatre. People on Twitter seemed to be missing Rufio from “Hook” a lot and there was a lot of hooting at the psychedelic croc, but I liked it (and of course it quickly had its own Twitter handle).

They cut some of my favorite stuff, but maybe that’s stuff that was more from the Disney cartoon, like when Peter shouts PIXIE DUST! and makes the pirate ship fly off into the moonlight. And Tinkerbell’s big moment was kind of rushed, and weirdly urgent, since most of the children that needed to clap to keep her alive were asleep by then.

The length of the show was a problem, especially for a show meant to be viewed by children, as it went too late and most little kids couldn’t stay up. There were a few odd things, like the flight wires being very noticeable (especally when the Darling boys first take off).

And yet, I liked it. I liked the set design, I liked the costumes (especially on the pirates), I liked the stagecraft, I liked (for the most part) the camera work. The weird thing is, that the most memorable parts were the weird things that got in the way of the wonder; Peter Pan is a very odd story and it does have some problems for a modern audience, yet people seem to love it anyway. There was shiny sparkly stuff all over, like theatrical Awesome Sauce. It was like the art director decided that MOAR GLITTER on top of bright, intense blues, greens and purples was a given.

“Pixie Dust: They Put That Shit On Everything.”

Yeah, it was shiny. And ludicrously colorful (yet very beautiful, in some shots). And I appreciated the tricks with forced perspective and false scale that they used for some scenes (such as looking over the London rooftops towards the nursery window). The music was vigorous, the dancing was energetic (if a little over-the-top, especially between Lost Boys and Indian braves). There was a lot that was good, and quite a bit that was unsettlingly creepy (if I’m asked to go on an adventure that consists of cooking, cleaning, and making pockets for boys, no thank you).

Of course, lots of people hated it, hooted at it, complained that it was long and weird. But it was never boring, just odd in the way that dreams are sometimes weirdly beautiful.

And I do hope NBC does something like this again next year – but they should either pick something that’s definitely geared and scheduled for family viewing, or do something wild that starts later but isn’t as long. As long as it’s not remotely a holiday theme, since we get enought of that “event entertainment” stuff this time of year, I’d be happy to watch (and tweet) again next year.

There Has Been or Will Be An Awakening

Listen to that voice. Who is it?

Maaaaaaybe THIS GUY?

BenedictCumberbatchSmaug

Fan reactions at Digital Spy are undecided as to who the voiceover is, but I think it’s Benedict Cumberbatch. I recently watched a rerun of Graham Norton where Cumberbatch was encouraged/goaded/genially forced to say things in different voices, including a very funny bit of Smaug.

BONUS: Benedict Cumberbatch can’t say “Penguins” which is very awkward considering he voiced a heroic wolf who helps save the Penguins of Madagascar in the new animated feature out this weekend.

EXTRA BONUS FOR PEOPLE WITH LADYPARTS OR A THING FOR SMAUG: Sexy Smaug voice is deployed.

After watching the trailer, I’m pretty sure that the voice is Cumberbatch’s, even though he gallantly responded “No comment” to Graham Norton’s persistent questions.

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station: Chris Hadfield: 9780316379649: Amazon.com: Books

This looks amazing:

Chris Hadfield's book of photography from space,

Divided by continent, YOU ARE HERE represents one (idealized) orbit of the ISS. This planetary photo tour — surprising, playful, thought-provoking, and visually delightful — is also punctuated with fun, fascinating commentary on life in zero gravity.

Via Amazon:You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station

Reading and Writing and Eating and Sleeping

Not too long ago, I got an email from Amazon:

We’re pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We’re now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.

Well, now. It seems like I have to re-apply if this email is to be believed. I should have done something about it before Christmas, but given the way I’ve been reading books on my iPad Kindle app lately, it might not be a bad idea to explore this.

some time later, after refreshments…

All signed up again, and started a basic Amazon Deals page. All proceeds will benefit St Nicholas Episcopal Church, which offers an evening food pantry twice a month and hosts a lot of AA and GA support groups (there are at least 2 or 3 meetings every single day). We’re not just a church, we’re a community (including people who wouldn’t normally set foot in a churchy church).

Long, long, long ago I used to have a bookshelf page; I’ll have to see if I can easily set that up again.

Meanwhile, after stumbling across the works of Peter Mayle (saw a movie called A Good Year) I’ve been reading a lot more on my trusty old iPad. I’ve read… 4 books in the last 3 days – they’re light, fast reads, very engaging but somehow they leave you hungry for more.

And thanks to reading about all that delicious, locally sourced Provencal food, I ended up getting hungry for something savory and hearty, which is how I was somehow inspired to make a mish-mosh of Pasta Carbonara mixed up with sauteed kale with paprika. It was truly awesome. I kind of cheated by not using bacon or pancetta… we had a big hunk of honey ham left over that needed to be used, so I diced about a cup of juicy, tender ham and some of the fatty bits and got that crisped on the edges in the skillet, and then sauteed the blanched kale in that same skillet with onions, while also doing the magical “no cream” carbonara with egg and Parmesan cheese at the same time. Both recipes are from Simply Recipes, but they were mighty in combination.

Sauteed Kale with Smoked Paprika (I used regular paprika and tossed in some slivered almonds to toast in the same skillet)
Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Whatever happened to good old Blogging, hey?

Why don’t I blog anymore? Sometimes I go back looking for recipes or something and stumble across an older post and think “Damn, I can write pretty well. Why don’t I do that more?”

I guess the answer is “No time, no inclination.”

But we’re nearing the end of the calendar year, and I’m kind of… getting in the mood and the mindframe to write moar stuffs, and to catch up on things, and reflect. There’s a lot that I never blogged about at the time, that now I wish I’d noted down, if only to fix in my mind where and when and who and what and why.

Reading, Reading, Reading

I’ve been Twittering and even Google+ -ing more than actually blogging, but mostly what I do is read, read, read my newsfeed. Currently, that’s in Feedly, but Feedly doesn’t seem to want to provide a feed for free of the items I read, but I can send the best to Pocket (eyeroll), which can provide an RSS feed of my read and unread Pocket items. And now there’s something called “IFTTT.com” that can provide “recipes” that link different social accounts. I’ve just set it up to either create a new Facebook post with something favorited in Pocket, or to put anything saved for later in Feedly into Pocket. It’s to consolidate the stuff so that the best ends up on Pocket, I suppose. There are lots of other recipes and possible social sites to link there, too.

Currently Listening

I’ve been fooling with iTunes a lot more, since the recent death of my iPhone 4GS and the need to try to get all MY GODDAMN MUSIC on all my devices. Unfortunately, Apple makes life more difficult for users by not only changing the form factor of their products so that new cables, docks, and cases are required after almost every required upgrade, but forcing users to “authorize” their devices to use the music they purchased or ripped. This gets to be a problem if you forget to deauthorize a device when it’s replaced, or if it’s locked up, crashes irrevocably, and can’t be deauthorized without doing something like deauthorizing ALL devices, which can only be done once a year. I should think about doing that, since it’s nearly the end of one calendar year.

I’ve also got two Apple IDs, a lamentable state. The very old one is linked to my old, old, old AOL account, and a few of my songs, which somehow managed to survive on my old laptop through various changes of hardware, were purchased under that account. For some reason, Apple cannot make it possible to merge an old account into a new one. And it’s hard to fix problems with iCloud, too. Fortunately, there’s home sharing now, and iMatch (paid service, not going for it currently), but at least I was able to get all my iTunes libraries to be readable (all the music is now off of my desktop rather than part of iTunes’ folder tree, though).

I’ve been going through my iTunes and adding ratings, deleting songs that annoy me, and in some cases (I DON’T KNOW WHY) some songs go to iCloud and just won’t DIE, DIE, DIE. I think these are songs that I deleted long ago, but they got revived when I re-downloaded from the detachable hard drive. Which probably means that I’ll have to back up everything back to the hard drive in order to prevent the same thing from happening again. And it also may mean that my multiple locations will confuse the issue. I was using Clementine the other night to play music, and hit a snag with some kind of “encryption” error (probably one of the songs downloaded with the old Apple ID that needs to be reauthorized to this computer). Eh, feh, meh.

My rating system is basically like this:

* – Listened, don’t like it, can be deleted
** – Worth keeping, don’t dislike it
*** – Like it, not a favorite
**** – A current favorite, makes me turn up the volume on the headphones
***** – A lifetime favorite, makes me jump up and dance

I’m currently about a third of the way through rating my music, rediscovering stuff I haven’t heard in years. I’ll have to proceed carefully when I’m ready to back this all up so that I don’t lose all the ratings… again, eh meh feh. You can see my progress by checking the “currently listening” widget in the rightward column. I may go back and re-arrange that so the list is longer.

I have… even older choices that are on cassettes. Of those, the ones that mean the most have been purchased at the iTunes store, but I’m starting to get the idea the purchasing a CD is the smarter way to go, given the way I’ve been burned on some of my purchases.

Travel

The big, big trip in August with David’s dad Sheldon and his friend Linda was a lot of fun, as we went all over the Pacific Northwest. It had a fair amount of scope creep (we went too many places, mostly because Shel wanted to re-visit some things, and because David and I wanted to show Shel and Linda our favorites). There are plenty of photos, but I haven’t organized them. Afterwards, David remarked that it had been pretty expensive, so we probably would skip Hawaii in 2014 (we generally go every 2 years). Okay, so we would do something else, and I didn’t earmark 2 weeks away in February or March, when we like to go to the islands.

Then about a month ago, David said wistfully, “do you think we could go to Maui? I miss it.”

Fortunately, I was able to get some air space (thanks to Travelocity, after checking in SABRE), get some ground space (thanks to Condo Connection), and get some vacation time moved around (thanks to… work?) and we’re going. There’s no big plan, it’s just a return to one of the places we love. I’m hoping the condo I ended up with will be okay, as none of the places we’ve stayed at before were available or on the list of properties that Condo Connection handles. I’ve used so many different booking companies over the years, but one I won’t use again is Expedia, because the checkin process with them is a mess if you arrive after hours.

Some of the booking services I’ve used in the past include:

Condominium Connection for Napili Point, Royal Kahana, Poipu Shores (Kauai), and probably Maui Kamaole
Condominium Rentals Hawaii for Maui Kamaole
Maui Condo for Maui Kamaole, others.

I went looking for even more places I’ve used, but can’t find the websites… yeah, we’ve been to Maui a lot over the years (and to a lesser extent, Kauai and the Big Island).

I’d still like to get back to the Royal Mauian, but they sell out for whale-watching season a lot farther in advance. The one time we got in there in a 6th floor center unit, it was through Expedia, and the checkin process was awful – had to call someone to let us in, and the unit wasn’t ready. It’s an ideally located property in Kihei, far enough back from the main street, but perched right between 2 good swimming and snorkeling beaches. They don’t sell through many condo services, though, and the best units are center section, upper floor. The rooftop deck can’t be beat.

We’ve been at the Maui Kamaole a lot, probably because as one of the bigger properties in Kihei, they often have space. Not close to the water, as it’s across the street, but the sloping grounds are pretty and the choice of several pools and jacuzzis, and ample outdoor barbecues make for a nice property to spend off-beach time at. I have fond memories of scrunching my feet down in the crushed stone at the bottom of the one jacuzzi there, feels great on tired feet as the hot water comes up from below the smoothly polished gravel.

We’ve been to Hale Pau Hana at least twice – but probably can’t afford to stay in the Penthouse again, as they’ve remodeled and the price is now around 1800.00 per night, though with 3 or 4 bedrooms, it’s an incredible spot for large groups. Downside: it’s on the third floor, with no elevator. Still, it looks incredible now. The other units in the high-rise part of the building are fine, but they don’t have in-room washer and dryer from what I recall. That penthouse was something extra special, even before the big remodel. At least they seem to have gotten rid of the waterbed in the master bedroom – the upgrades look really beautiful, but I don’t think I’d want to do the 3 or 4 couple thing again, particularly as the last “bedroom” is a TV room with sofa bed.

We’ve been to Napili Point several times. David doesn’t like the rocky entry to Honokeana Bay, but I don’t mind it, and there are ALWAYS turtles there. And the sandy beach is just a short walk around the point. Also, restaurants like the Gazebo and the resort of Napili Bay are walkable.

This time we’re trying a place in Kahana, which is south of Napili, north of Kaanapali. It’s called the Royal Kahana, a big high-rise condo. Doesn’t look like the grounds are much to write home about, but the price was good and the example photos look fine. With this kind of property, each unit is individually owned and decorated to the taste of the owner, so you never know. You can request a recently upgraded unit sometimes. I booked this one through Condo Connection – had to laugh, I’ve used them enough they recognized my email and have a sort of profile with them. They use Skype, in addition to the usual email and toll-free phone.

The way this winter has been, we’ll be glad to get out of town and away from the cold.

Family

That’s getting kind of fun and interesting, since Shel and Linda are still chugging along happily! Good developments for my brother-in-law Dan with his new job and girlfriend, Tammy. Got to see some of my side of the family in August, too. Lots more that’s not for bloggery, but it’s all pretty good.

Friends

I lost my friend Tim Black last summer – how strange that was. He sang in the choir at church and seemed to be getting his life on a better track (lot of struggle, there). But suddenly, we got word that he’d had a terrible stroke, and he was gone in a week. His family decided to have a memorial in the late fall, just before Advent. So I made sure to have the afternoon off to attend, and also the choir prepared one of his favorite pieces to sing. Almost all of the core members were able to be there, plus a couple of extra people, so we were able to sing him off home.

Everyone else I know seems to be doing all right, though I need to check in with a few people – even in this hyper-connected age, it’s all too easy to lose touch.

Work

Work is weird – how bad can it be, working from home? It’s pretty isolating, for one thing. But I love the commute and I love the convenience. I’m just not sure how long it’ll be like this, because some things are changing behind the scenes in the next few months. I think it won’t really affect those of us at peon level, but stuff way over my pay grade is changing. I think for now I’m set as far as being on my same team, doing what I currently do – but there’s always the chance that someone far overhead will rearrange things like teams, accounts, and workflow. Of interest: I’m on a pilot project for a “new-new” booking tool that as far as I can tell is a re-skinned version of the “old-new” booking tool. It’s not officially in use yet, hence the pilot. I’d feel better about using it if it didn’t look like the same old thing as before, which is much slower than it’s supposed to be and inclined to lock up if you fight the process by doing too much the “old-old” way, which is faster and more reliable, but not as lockstep consistent as the new-old and new-new tools. Le sigh.

Epilogue

And look at that, it’s a blog post! And all of my iTunes songs have been rated and I’m all synced. There were some songs that I downloaded from the Internet about 4 computers ago that were stubborn about copying back and forth; I decided they were worth buying from iTunes, what the hell, hey? There were only 4 of them ::eyeroll:: out of about 870 that successfully updated.

So. Christmas time is come and gone, and it’s almost New Year’s Day. I’ve been fighting a cold that seems to just be minor sniffles with an annoying dry cough that comes and goes – I was slugging ginger tea and honey before Christmas Eve, so that I could sing, but have slacked off since then. At some point this week, the tree comes down, and the lights, and they get packed away. But for now we’re in that slightly seedy, post-Christmas festive mood. My week off is over, and it’s back to my normal workday routine tomorrow. Maybe I’ll actually blog again more frequently, now that I’ve got the music sorted (I like to blog while listening to something).

Until then, adieu (adieu, adieu).